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Kogi ministerial slot: Contending forces intensify lobby

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Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Photo/Twitter/LugardHouse

Ahead the reconstitution of the Federal Executive Council by President Muhammadu Buhari, various interests are already playing out in Kogi State. Prof Stephen Ocheni, who took over from the late Barrister James Ocholi from Kogi East, ended his tenure on May 28 2019, following dissolution of the council by the President.

While it is not clear if President Buhari would retain Ocheni, some individuals and groups are showing interest and have intensified lobby for the ministerial position. At the last count, no fewer than five persons have shown interest. They include, Hon Saliu Seidu Akawu (Kogi West), Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), Hon Suleiman Baba Ali (Kogi West), the immediate past Minister of State for Labour, Prof Stephen Ocheni (Kogi East), and perhaps, the latest entrant, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National woman leader, Hajia Salamatu Bawa, who is equally from Kogi East.

At different times, the state’s three senatorial districts have been represented at the Federal Executive Council. Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Kogi West produced Prof Eyitayo Lambo, Kola Jamodu, Barrister Bayo Ojo (SAN) and General David Jemibewon, all from the Okun Yoruba speaking axis of Kogi West as ministers.

The Ebira speaking people of Kogi Central also produced Alhaji Muhammed Adoke (SAN) as minister during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.From Kogi East, Gabriel Aduku was appointed by former President Obasanjo, while Barrister Humphrey Abba was appointed into the Federal cabinet by former president Goodluck Jonathan. Akawu is believed to be banking on his loyalty and commitment to APC as a pioneer member, who was believed to have worked for the party’s victory in 2015 and 2019.

Hon Saidu Akawu Salihu was born on March 11 1964. He hails from Koto Karfe town in Kogi Local Government of the state. He graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, where he studied Sociology.  He was appointed Commissioner of Budget and Economic Planning, Kogi State between 2003 and 2005, and Commissioner of Water Resources and Rural Development between 2005 and 2007. He was appointed Chairman, Governing Board of Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) in 2018 to Date.

A source close to Lugard House, who desired anonymity, told The Guardian that Governor Yahaya Bello actually promised to support Akawu’s ambition in the past. He, however said because of the dynamic nature of politics, no one is sure of what would happen. Another source said Bello was presently not comfortable with Akawu’s romance with Rt. Admiral Jibril Usman, who is believed to be Bello’s main opposition within APC for the November governorship election. As it is, Akawu’s fate may just be hanging in the balance.

A group in Lokoja has charged President Buhari and Governor Bello to ensure that loyal APC members, such as Suleiman Baba, are adequately compensated in the new cabinet.In a statement signed by its Secretary, Comrade Yakubu Abubakar, the Lokoja Consultative Youth Forum (LCYF) noted that the likes of Alhaji Suleiman Baba Ali, former Commissioner of Health and a governorship aspirant in Kogi State in 2015 primaries deserve recommendation.

The group said it would join forces with other like minds to ensure that Baba Ali was considered for ministerial position under President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Yahaya Bello’s second terms. But Baba’s popularity in APC may have dwindled after the demise of Price Abubakar Audu, who was his maternal uncle.

ASIDE the fact that Senator Adeyemi is believed to be the state government’s choice, a source told The Guardian the Presidency is also favourably disposed to his ministerial ambition, due largely to his experience. Adeyemi is a two-time National president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and a two-time senator. It is believed he is highly connected to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office. He is from the West Senatorial district, which is currently favoured by political zoning in the state, for political balancing among the state’s three senatorial districts.

The Central currently occupies the governorship position, while the East holds the Deputy governor’s position. The source added that Adeyemi is most likely to clinch the slot, as the state government may want to compensate him, having lost the senatorial seat to his archrival, Senator Dino Melaye.

THE immediate past Minister of State for Labour, who is also in the race for Kogi ministerial slot, is banking on his connection in the Presidency. He has served in Buhari’s cabinet for almost two years. Prof Stephen Ikani Ocheni is a professor of Public Sector Accounting, and until his appointment as Minister, he was the Dean of Faculty of Management Sciences, Kogi State University, Anyigba. He hails from Uwowo in Igalamela/Odolu Local Government Area of Kogi. He bagged a PhD in Financial Management from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was said to be lobbying Governor Bello, who nominated him in the first place. He was also believed to be very loyal to the New Direction Government of Governor Bello.

According to a source, his major weakness is that he is not well grounded politically. So, he was unable to attract any meaningful development to his area or Kogi in his first outing as minister.INTERESTINGLY, the recent entrance into the race by APC National woman leader, Hajia Salamatu Bawa, is causing a stir in Kogi APC.

Hajia Bawa is said to be highly connected. Her closeness to wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari, is also considered an advantage.
A source at Government House said Governor Bello had already sent three nominees to the President. The source said Bawa’s exclusion from the list was generating serious commotion in Kogi APC and beyond, as Bawa was said to have raised objection in very high quarters.

When contacted on the development, Governor Bello’s spokesperson, Kingsley Fanwo, said: “The Minister will be appointed by the President and not the Governor, and we believe Mr. President will make the right choice that will fit into his agenda for the nation. “I would urge all to be patient and wait for the choice that will be made from Kogi State. Whoever is chosen will enjoy Governor Bello’s support and cooperation. Until the President submits the final list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly for clearance, the lobbying continues.”


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